Part 5: Launch and Beyond
The big day has arrived! All of your hard work has paid off and now it’s finally time to launch your beautiful site to the World Wide Web! The web design company will work with you to push the site live, replacing your old site with the new one.
Soft launch your website first
The second your new site is finally live, you’ll probably be tempted to immediately post it on social media and send an e-blast to all of your supporters. I strongly recommend you wait a few days because:
- If your server changes, it can take 24-48 hours for the domain changes to propagate across the web. This means that even if you’re seeing the new site, some users might still see the old one.
- It’s a good idea to carefully review the entire site again. I know, you already did this a few times, but stuff can get bumped out of place during the migration and there may be other typos and bugs you didn’t see before.
Make sure you test all forms, payment gateways, and other tools during this time. Confirm you’re receiving all of the notification emails you need to properly manage the site. Share the site with a few trusted supporters who can help you catch any last bugs or typos.
You’ve worked on this for months, give it a couple extra day cushion before you start your full promo to ensure everything is as perfect as possible.
An opportunity to reintroduce yourself
Don’t waste this moment! Launching a new website is a great way to contact your supporters and reintroduce yourself to the world.
The news that you have a new website might be the timely bit of info justifying the promotion, but don’t make the site itself the point of the story. Rather it’s a chance to unveil a new brand, retell your story, double-down on your mission, unveil a strategic plan, launch a new phase, and/or engage supporters in new ways.
Then let everyone know! How to promote your nonprofit website launch
Finally, once the site has been live for a few days and you’ve worked out any last-minute bugs, it’s time to tell the world.
Some ways to get the word out:
- Post it on all of your social media channels. Say something interesting about the new site, whether it’s how it aligns your your latest priorities, a new feature you’re excited about, a quality piece of content, or the reason you undertook this big project. Don’t just say “We have a new website! Check it out!”
- Send out an e-Blast to all of your supporters, highlighting new components of the site that your audience would most enjoy.
- Include a mini-announcement and link in your email signature.
- Email your business contacts, friends and family. Ask your staff/board to do the same. Consider posting it on your personal social media accounts as well.
- Hold a launch party!
Plan for website maintenance and updates
Websites require upkeep, and it’s good to put a plan in place as soon as you launch, rather than waiting until something breaks.
First, make sure there’s somebody in your organization who is responsible for looking after the website: posting blog posts, adding pictures, responding to inquiries, etc. Make sure they are keeping an eye on the site even when there aren’t new updates to post.
Second, make sure you have a maintenance plan or retainer with your web developer to help you with the more technical aspects of software updates, maintenance, and bug fixes. Just like a car, websites need to be regularly maintained to continue performing optimally. You also want somebody to call on in case of an emergency—ideally someone who already understands your site inside and out.
Assuming you liked the firm you worked with, it’s best to continue working with them for maintenance since they already understand your site. But if you need to rehire, find a developer that is familiar with the platform your site uses (e.g. WordPress, Drupal, etc.).
Key Aspects of Nonprofit Website Maintenance
Make sure these key areas are covered by your website maintenance contract:
- Daily backups: If you have daily offsite backups of your website, you always have something to roll back to if things go awry.
- Software updates: on the WordPress platform, you need to regularly update WordPress core, themes and plugins. Making these updates at least monthly is critical for the security of your website—there are often security vulnerabilities that updates are released to fix. Just make sure you have backups (and a way to restore them) before you update any software.
- Uptime monitoring: You don’t want your website visitors to be the first ones to spot when your website goes down. Use an automated tool so that you and/or your developer gets notified the minute your site is no longer online so you can get things back up before anybody else notices.
- Security monitoring: WordPress websites should always have a security plugin to guard against hackers trying to get access to your site. You’ll also need somebody getting alerts from the plugin whenever suspicious activity is flagged. Or in the worst-case scenario, if your site ever gets hacked, you’ll want somebody available to quickly restore a clean version of the site ASAP.
- General support: sometimes technology doesn’t cooperate, or you need to add a new page and can’t figure out how. It’s nice to have somebody who knows your site inside and out that can help you.
I support my clients through standard website care plans. Other web design firms offer other forms of retainers and such. You’ll ideally want to discuss this before starting the website project to ensure you have a plan in place that you can afford after the project is done.
Google Analytics 101 for nonprofits
Make sure you have Google Analytics configured on the new site. Ideally it should be the same account that you used for your old site so you can compare traffic to the old site. Your developer should set this up as part of the launch process, but make sure to ask about it to make sure.
A couple basic analytics terms:
- Pageviews: Times pages on your site are loaded. Each time a user opens or refreshes a page it counts as an additional pageview.
- Sessions: Each time a user makes a visit to your website. They might click on one page and leave or click around to 100; it’s still one session. After they’ve been inactive for 30 minutes it resets, so if they come back later it counts as a new session.
- Users: individual people that use your site. So if a user comes back a second time, it counts as 2 sessions but still just 1 user.
- Bounce rate: the percent of sessions where the user only viewed a single page before leaving the site. The lower the bounce rate, the higher your quality of traffic is.
- Goals: custom user actions you track, such as filling out an opt-in form, making a donation, making a purchase etc. If set up well, goals will give you the clearest picture of how well your site is performing. Talk to your developer about setting these up.
The launch is just the beginning
The launch of a website is only the beginning. Your website should evolve and change with you as an organization, not just be a snapshot in time until the next time you have a budget for a new website.
Make a plan for posting content regularly, as well as periodic audits throughout the year where you review your whole website to ensure the content is still accurate and consistent with your other marketing efforts. Most websites built these days are very easy to update, so aim to continuously improve it.
You made it to the end!
You must be serious about rocking your website project. I wish you the best of luck!
If you found this guide helpful, please share this guide with other nonprofits you think could benefit from it. And/or blast it out on social media!
If you want to work with me, I'd be delighted to chat with you about your project. Get in touch.